President Joe Biden seems to have deftly averted war- for now- but warns: “The United States is prepared, no matter what happens.”

President of Russia Vladimir Putin meeting with US President Joseph Biden (via videoconference). December 16. 2021. (photo: Presidential Executive Office of Russia)

“On our call, foreign minister Lavrov said that the Russians are working on a response to the paper that we sent to Moscow more than two weeks ago proposing concrete areas for discussion,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told reporters during a press conference today. “It remains to be seen if they will follow through on that, but if they do, we will be ready to engage together with our allies and partners.”

“I also underscored that if Moscow chooses the path of aggression, and further invades Ukraine, the response of the United States and our allies will be swift, it will be united, and it will be severe,” Blinken finished on a somewhat ominous tone.

During the recent escalating tensions between Russia and the Ukraine, the Biden Administration hasn’t backed down one inch from assertions that Russia has been planning an imminent invasion of the Ukraine.

With news today that Russia appears to be backing down, for now- with heavy emphasis on “appears” and “for now”- Biden seems to have emerged the victor.

What the Biden Administration and others would likely describe as a successful foreign policy gambit that averted a military action, Russia’s Foreign Ministry is casting as a misinformation campaign created to malign Vladimir Putin and Russia.

“February 15, 2022 will go down in history as the day Western propaganda for war failed,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a statement posted to Facebook. “Humiliated and destroyed without a single shot being fired.”

Yet in spite of Russia’s fervent denials, we are now living in a world where no major world power can conduct military operations in secret. Spy satellites encircle the earth, armed with magnification so powerful as to be able to read the date on a dollar bill from space. Technology is so advanced even heavy clouds offer no real cover.

Satellite spy tech is also more widely available than ever before. Anyone with a smart phone or access to Google can see the build-up of Russian troops along the Ukraine border for themselves.

Even if a major military authority like Russia’s did manage to avoid detection by satellite, anyone and everyone with a high-resolution recording device in their pocket could take notice of, say, a major military operation. One upload to social media later, and hundreds of millions of amateur sleuths worldwide are analyzing the movements of a Russian military unit in real time.

To say nothing of the information intelligence agencies must be able to data-mine in this media-saturated environment.

As of today, Russian authorities are trying to spin amassing troops near the Ukraine border as merely a routine training exercise that ignited a totally unnecessary panic in the west.

Russian military authorities were merely conducting innocuous training exercises, “on its own territory and according to its own plans,” according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“[The military exercises] start, go on and end as planned,” he continued testily. “No matter who thinks what and who gets hysterical about it, who is deploying real informational terrorism.”

“We’ve always said the troops will return the their bases after the exercises are over,” agreed Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov blandly. “This is the case this time as well.”

That narrative might seem a bit more plausible were it not for the fact that the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, together with every other major media outlet in the world, has published detailed satellite photos of exactly what Putin is doing- or seems to be doing, or wants world leaders to think he is doing, or wants the Ukrainian government to fear he is doing- along the border of the Ukraine.

Whatever kind of game Putin has been playing, whether he ever was really planning to attack Ukraine or merely wanted everyone to think so, President Joe Biden appears to have outmaneuvered him.

Now, the Russian President is under enormous international pressure to stop preparing to invade Ukraine. He is under even more pressure to stop pretending to do so.

Already this power play has cost the Ukraine dearly in terms of foreign investments, stability, NATO prospects and stock market losses. All of which mean a net gain for Putin.

By raising the stakes for this sort of subterfuge, President Biden no doubt hopes to avoid any future “misunderstandings” about Russian aggression towards its nearest neighbors.

Biden’s actions during this crisis have communicated something else vitally important; but this message was for Ukraine.

Yes, the Ukraine is our ally; no, the Ukraine cannot count on U.S. military intervention to litigate by force its ongoing disputes with Russia.

This has been but one dust up. While Putin will no doubt be more careful next time he makes this sort of overture, skirmishes will persist until the Ukrainian government negotiates with, and possibly even makes concessions to, Russia.

Keeping the U.S. out of foreign wars seems to be a key priority of the Biden Administration, and that is something for which we all should be grateful. No one wants war, least of all the people who live near the disputed region, almost all of whom have relatives and friends just a few miles away on the “other side” of the border.

The American people are also tired of war. Playing a high-stakes game of international brinksmanship may seem like a strategy designed to throw fuel on the fire of Russian aggression but in reality the opposite may be true.

By talking tough, and taking decisive and swift action, President Joe Biden has come out ahead in this particular crisis. While it is far from over, and the world still waits to see if Putin will fulfill his promise to end Russia’s “routine training mission” so near Ukraine; for now the world draws further from war, rather than closer and it’s thanks to Joe Biden.

As of today, the Ukraine has accused Russia of a hacking attack. Foreign policy observers are now nervously wondering if this was a cyber attack planned to distract from the training exercise story and further destabilize the Ukraine, or a precursor to an actual invasion.

Military and intelligence agencies warn an invasion or major military action is likely to be preceded by just such an attempt to cut off access to key systems.

President Biden addressed the nation Tuesday afternoon to discuss the ongoing crisis.

“The United States is prepared no matter what happens,” Mr. Biden assured the nation. “We are ready with diplomacy and we are ready to respond decisively to a Russian attack on Ukraine, which is still very much a possibility.”

“For weeks now, together with our allies and partners, my administration has engaged in nonstop diplomacy,” the President continued. “We are ready to keep pursuing high-level diplomacy.”

“The United States and NATO are not a threat to Russia,” the President said later, addressing the Russian people directly. “The Ukraine is not a threat to Russia. We do not seek to destabilize Russia. You are not our enemy.”

Still, he reminded Russian authorities that, “invading Ukraine will prove to be a self-inflicted wound.”

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)